Lawmakers Propose No Changes To School Funding

Nov 17, 2015

Here, education stakeholders at Tuesday's Recalibration Committee meeting are standing to show lawmakers they support keeping the current school funding model. No one stood in support of changing the model.
Credit Aaron Schrank/WPR

After months of work, a legislative committee decided Tuesday not to make any changes to the way schools are funded. 

The Select Committee on School Finance Recalibration voted not to draft a new school funding bill, but to stick with the model the state has used for the past decade.

As the state faces revenue declines, the committee had thought about adjusting the funding model so that it is more in line with what consultants say it should actually cost to educate students. That approach would have reduced school funding by about $50 million dollars statewide. Instead of tweaking that, Senate President Phil Nicholas says the group decided to keep things as is.

“If there are disparities in the existing model, those are [disparities] that districts have become accustomed to,” says Nicholas. “They’ve built their budgets on those disparities. And they were arrived at through lots of negotiating and prior education bills. There was no purpose to create new inequities, differences or reallocations.”

School administrators in the audience were asked to stand in support of either current statute or some version of the proposed cost-based model. Support for existing state law on school funding was unanimous.

Nicholas says the committee’s action is good news for school districts.

“They are concerned in this budget environment that there would be severe reductions to their budgets,” says Nicholas. “And this is a commitment at least now to direct the Appropriations Committee to move forward with this constant level of funding. So the districts, I think, are somewhat relieved that we didn’t come and say, ‘you have to share in cuts with everyone else.’”

This isn’t the final word on the matter. Despite the Committee’s findings and recommendations, lawmakers could still propose cuts to education spending when the legislature meets in February.